With Asean integration fast approaching, analysts say Cambodia has more to do to strengthen its human resources and be competitive in the region’s open markets.
Rana Sowath, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia has a surplus of business administration and management students. “But what we really need is health, engineering, agriculture and rural development.”
Asean integration will begin in 2016, with the 10 countries in the block working toward a free flow of goods and services. That has some Cambodian observers worried the country won’t be able to compete with its neighbors, and that it could drive even more labor migration, as low-skilled Cambodians seek low-wage jobs.
Rana Sowath said there remain a number of sectors that are priorities for Asean: agricultural production, air transportation, electronics production and public health.
Cambodia, meanwhile, lacks quality higher education, education equity, good governance and good research, he said. It also lacks cooperation between government agencies and institutions.
“This transitional model really needs full participation from different stakeholders, not just the government and private sector,” Rana Sowath said. “There should be collaboration among government institutions, unions, civil society groups and the private sector.”
The government, meanwhile, lags behind in support and a clear policy, as well as in the development of human resources and the national infrastructure, he said. Instead, it has been up to the private sector to train people—which has limitations.
“There are training programs for some of their employees, but they exist only in big institutions,” Rana Sowath said. “National institutions and small private companies do not have training programs for their employees.”
Still, Rana Sowath sees an opportunity for impoverished nations once they are integrated into the Asean community.
“There will be a mobility of high-skilled labor,” he said. “If we talk about Cambodia, we will receive experts in various areas, and our experts can work easily in other areas in Asean as well.”